The actor Will Smith recently said “Racism isn’t getting worse, its getting filmed.” In the past couple of years, there have been some cases of police killing unarmed (or armed and not hostile) black citizens. Most people who I talk to—black and otherwise, don’t know that the history of modern policing in the United States originated from the institution of slavery. Slave codes were laws passed in the south to keep slaves from running away and/or rebelling. These laws forbade slaves from gathering in groups of three or more, leaving their owner’s land without a written pass; and, needless to say, a slave was not allowed to own a gun, learn to read or write, or testify in court. So for anyone wondering why the “black community” is so often associated with crime, they must first confront the fact that our country has had a history of criminalizing basic human freedoms for black people; therefore, there have always been more laws for black people to break. Dr. Gary Potter, author and professor at Eastern Kentucky University School of Justice Studies writes:
The genesis of the modern police organization in the South is the “Slave Patrol” (Platt 1982). The first formal slave patrol was created in the Carolina colonies in 1704 (Reichel 1992). Slave patrols had three primary functions: (1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves; (2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts; and, (3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside of the law, if they violated any plantation rules. Following the Civil War, these vigilante-style organizations evolved in modern Southern police departments primarily as a means of controlling freed slaves who were now laborers working in an agricultural caste system, and enforcing “Jim Crow” segregation laws, designed to deny freed slaves equal rights and access to the political system.
Now while that doesn’t tell the entire story of where we are today, I think it’s definitely an important point in the discussion. This article is not a dismissal of recent injustices, nor is it rooted in ignorance of law enforcement’s routine corruption and abuse of power in this country, but truth and honesty has to lead the discussion. I know career drug dealers personally who people say have “hearts of gold”. But when they suffer unfair circumstances and consequences at the hands of law enforcement, as bad as I feel for them, I tend to reserve most of my compassion for habitually law-abiding citizens. Drug dealers don’t deserve to die at the hands of law enforcement because drug dealing isn’t a crime punishable by death. Far too often the consequences for black crime are far more severe for us (and Hispanics) than they are for other people groups.
But there’s also another side to this. Some things are not worth defending, even if surrounding circumstances are suspicious. Korryn Gaines is the lastest #hashtag cause that people are jumping on in the name of social justice. Personally, I can’t think of any hashtag movement that moves me personally, but I’m not always opposed to them. I’m thoroughly opposed to a hashtag for this women.
If you’re not familiar, Korryn was shot by police on Monday August 1st, after refusing to come out of her apartment when they tried to serve warrants on her and her boyfriend. Her boyfriend walked out of the apartment peacefully with their infant daughter but Korryn refused to come out and kept her 5-year-old son inside with her. Police obtained a key to the apartment from the landlord and opened the door. According to the police, there was an hours-long standoff during which she allegedly pointed a gun at the officers repeatedly and at one point, said, “If you don’t leave, I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you.”
In this video footage Korryn took during the standoff, she asks her son what the police are trying to do to which he answers, “trying to kill us.” (Video originally posted to Korryn Gaines Instagram account):
Here, Korryn is seen holding a gun while police are outside her front door:
The warrant stemmed from a traffic stop five months prior. On March 11, 2016 Korryn was pulled over for displaying a piece of cardboard in lieu of a license plate which read, “‘Any government official who compromises this pursuit to happiness and right to travel, will be held criminally responsible and fined, as this is a natural right to freedom.” Korryn was uncooperative and hostile from the start, even instructing her young son who was in the backseat to “fight the police.” While the police remained very patient and tried to work with her, she continually stated on the video she was recording that the police would have to kill her and that they wanted to kill her. The video concludes with police pulling her out of the car after she refused for several minutes to come out. That video can be seen here:
After her release from jail two days later, she posted several short videos of the traffic stop. The caption for the first video she wrote:
On March 10th at 4:05pm , at this point in time me daughter’s dad had been held hostage for 8+months and i had to go thru drastic measures to have him freed. After it was said and done,my cell phones were disconnected and my license plates were stolen off of my car. I put a tag on my car to warn that if any government official further tried to compromise my traveling rights that they would be held accountable. This note remained for about 4 weeks with no harassment from the police who i live directly across from. This was the day they orchestrated my kidnapping.
In another caption she appears to express beliefs that state and federal laws do not apply to her:
Constitutional Law is the only true law. In order to be granted the role as Law enforcement u must take an oath to uphold the Constitution and be granted a DOAO DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY ORDER. The police are not Law enforcement they are Policy enforcers and operate outside of the laws of the Constitution which would make them organized criminals. They enforce CORPORATE Law (to generate revenue,in others words to get money,however in this case they know that i know this nd this is them making trouble with me) which is not a true form of the law but so many of us have bended to their criminal ways. Not me.
Some are saying Korryn was mentally ill. In 2012, Korryn Gaines filed a lawsuit against the owner of two Baltimore homes she lived in as a child citing that “a sea of lead” paint made her ill. Gaines was examined by a doctor who found that she continued to display “signs of neurocognitive impairment,” and “lost significant IQ points as a result of that exposure.” According to this same doctor, his assessments of Gaines show she had a history of problems with anger and impulsive behavior. While that might illicit a bit more compassion, mental illness does not always change the scope of events, nor does it always excuse behavior that puts others in danger. After all, serial killers and pedophiles are mentally ill also.
I would advise black people and all champions of social justice to tread lightly and not be guided by their emotions when they pick and choose what battles they’re going to fight. The Bible cautions us:
He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him. -Proverbs 18:13
There may be more than meets the eye when it comes to this woman’s death, but what the eye can see is plenty enough for me to not make any kind of presumption of innocence on this woman’s behalf.